Implement automatic addition of taxon photos (for compare tool)

Using representative taxon photos might be an important aspect of getting IDs right and the community in general makes a good effort that good quality photos and preferably ones showing different aspects of that taxon are chosen. However, in many cases, there is just one photo shown per taxon (and sometimes none at all).

As far as I understand, as soon as a taxon w/o photos gets its first Research Grade-observation, a photo of that observation will automatically be added to the taxon by the system.

I want to suggest a process to be implemented to have at least 3 photos per taxon automatically added (all of those need to be Research Grade).

  • for a taxon above species level: photos from three different species (if possible)
  • for a species: photos with different annotations (and preferably in a certain order, like:
    • plants: flowering → fruiting
    • insects: adult → larva/nymph etc.

Of course these initial photos can be changed by the community subsequently. But I noticed that many, even quite common taxa, are right now restricted to one photo and the suggested method might be a good way to improve the ID flow within iNat.

I think this should only be implemented if the taxon has no photos, and the site should automatically add the first photos of the first observation. Adding random photos to taxa that already have one photo might not be helpful, as they could be poor quality, or have repetitive angles.

What would be bad about it? Low quality pictures of a different species for the same genus or of a different life stage would be better than having nothing to compare at all, and can be replaced at any time. The first photo would stay the same anyways.
And as the photo pool contains only RG observations, it should add some value.

Here for example - more than 1400 observations, 16 species, only one taxon photo:

If people aren’t adding photos already to these taxa, then it’s probably not likely that they’d fix blurry photos, if they get added automatically. I see your point though, it wouldn’t do that much harm.

it’s probably not likely that they’d fix blurry photos

I’m not even sure of this - actually, I could very well imagine that people might feel the urge to improve such a composition (‘urgh, what an ugly image - let me quickly fix this’), whereas a single beautiful photo on a taxon page would much less motivate to add a second one. Just a feeling, though.


Perhaps this is not totally related to the suggestion, but it concerns potential automatic behaviour of iNat in relation to taxon photos. A couple days ago I noticed that a species had its first taxon photo of a wrong genus. The observation was initially identified as the species, but was subsequently identified as another genus. However, the taxon photo of the wrong genus was still displayed for the taxon photo. Thus, automatic removing of wrong IDs might be useful, but I suspect it might be a lot of work for not much. Sadly, I corrected the situation In general, I agree that there is a lot of work to be done with taxon photos and I’m not sure a lot of people are aware that it can be changed (which might not be a bad thing…)

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What about making an alarm notification for a curator of higher taxon that this taxon got its first RG and a taxon photo is needed?


Yeah, and maybe we could have a page somewhere with a list?

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I don’t think this is the case, but perhaps @tiwane can confirm? I’m pretty sure I have seen several cases of taxa with Research Grade observations and no photo (usually when one of my observations got confirmed) and I think an image appears because in such a case, one of the identifiers will have the motivation to add it to the species page. I’ve done this myself when mine was the first RG observation of a species.

There are some old photos in place, including from Flickr, which I assume date back to the early days of iNaturalist, when there must have been a bulk import of images. They tend to have a higher proportion of errors than more recent images.


There’s a one day delay but this should be happening.


Ah, great! I didn’t realise. Just manually added photos for this taxon but it’s good to know this would have happened automatically. Thanks!

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